Amazing Grace

I will be forever thankful that in the years just before Dominic ran ahead to heaven, I spent each morning lingering long over Scripture.  I had just completed filling my fifth journal, copying entire chapters and making notes about what God revealed as I wrote and read.

Because if I had not been so thoroughly steeped in truth before it happened, I’m not sure I would have listened to it afterward.

I understand how hearts are hardened by tragedy.    

It’s a wonder that any heart remains soft at all.  

Only God’s amazing grace has kept me from turning away.  

Only His steadfast love has kept me from leaving it all behind.  

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God Doesn’t Grade on a Curve

When I was in school it was popular to ask a teacher after a test:  “Will you grade on a curve?” The hope was always that since it was unlikely anyone would get a perfect score, the brackets would be moved downward.

cartoon grade on a curve

Very few of us like absolutes.  We prefer to be judged one against another instead of against an unbendable standard.

It’s no different with morality.

If you asked me to judge myself on a scale from Hitler to Mother Teresa, I would definitely put myself closer to her rather to him.

As long I measure myself against other humans, I am comfortable saying I fall in the top 50 percent.

Trouble is, that’s not the standard.

The standard against which my actions and heart attitudes are measured is unchangeable and inflexible.

It is perfection itself-the holiness of a holy God.

And when I place myself next to that measuring rod, I am woefully short.

Jesus shocked His followers by telling them that unless their righteousness exceeded that of the Pharisees (considered the most upstanding and holy in that day) they would never enter the kingdom of God.  He expounded on every aspect of the Ten Commandments by addressing not only outward conformity (which, in truth, was impossible) but also motive and intention.

By that standard, even my “good deeds” are inadequate because they are often done with a wrong heart attitude.

I give because I want someone to think I’m generous.

I volunteer because I am a people pleaser.

I work hard because I want a raise.

Paul wrote in Romans “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” (Romans 3:23)

I can never “measure up” to the perfect standard of a perfect God.  And while my flesh may be happy with “good enough” the holiness of God demands absolute perfection.

Truth is, I am a sinner-I miss the mark, I step outside the boundaries, I do what I shouldn’t do and don’t do what I should do.

Just like our first parents, I listen to my flesh and the evil one and question God’s goodness and His wisdom.  I want to plot my own course, captain my own ship.

And also like our first parents, I find that I cannot do it.  

I fall woefully short.

I am naked and ashamed, exposed in my sin and without hope for redemption by my own efforts .

In any other story, this would be the end-no hope, no second chances.

But God….

Two of the most beautiful words in the world!  

God has not left me without hope.

He has not left me in my sin.

He has not abandoned me in my desperate state of alienation from my Creator.

He Himself has provided the Sacrifice,

the Perfect Lamb,

the propitiation for my sin.  

lamb of god with crosses

 

 

Made for Relationship

I’ve always taught even very young children straight from Scripture because I believe there is no better way to introduce them to Jesus and God than by the words the Spirit breathed into the world through the pens of chosen men.

In preparation for sharing with the children of our community this week at VBS, I’ve been studying the Bible verses chosen for each day.

When I study, I look up parallel verses and use several Bible translations and some paraphrases to try to get a better grasp of everything God may be saying.  I don’t use commentaries because I find them distracting and because I am convinced that the Holy Spirit can lead me into all truth.

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

John 14: 26 KJV

Since I’ll be busy these next five days, I thought I’d share my study notes with you.

the relationship begins

The first day’s theme is “The Relationship Begins”:  

Now Christ is the visible expression of the invisible God. He existed before creation began, for it was through him that every thing was made, whether spiritual or material, seen or unseen. Through him, and for him, also, were created power and dominion, ownership and authority. In fact, every single thing was created through, and for him. He is both the first principle and the upholding principle of the whole scheme of creation. And now he is the head of the body which is composed of all Christian people. Life from nothing began through him, and life from the dead began through him, and he is, therefore, justly called the Lord of all. It was in him that the full nature of God chose to live, and through him God planned to reconcile in his own person, as it were, everything on earth and everything in Heaven by virtue of the sacrifice of the cross.

Colossians 1:15-20 PHILLIPS

Jesus is God made visible!  Selah

(Pause and think about that!)

The eternal, omnipotent God of the universe chose to clothe Himself with flesh and enter His creation as a creature.   He subjected Himself to the same forces of nature I’m subject to.  He walked like I walk, talked like I talk, was hungry, thirsty, happy, sad-just like me.

But He is also utterly unlike me.

He was before ALL things.

He MADE all things.

His power keeps all things TOGETHER.

He made me and as my Creator, He has the absolute authority to direct my path.

“Life from nothing began through Him, and life from the dead began through Him”-He is the Author of physical life and the Author of eternal life.

There is no life apart from Him.

Whether or not I acknowledge this truth doesn’t change that it IS truth.

Jesus said, “I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him. You’ve even seen him!”

John 14:6-7 MSG

Christ’s sacrifice and His blood make it possible for me to dwell with God eternally.  He is the propitiation for sin, the payment in full for the penalty I deserve.

For that reason He is justly called, “Lord of all”.

God’s Son shines out with God’s glory, and all that God’s Son is and does marks him as God. He regulates the universe by the mighty power of his command. He is the one who died to cleanse us and clear our record of all sin, and then sat down in highest honor beside the great God of heaven.

Hebrews 1:3 TLB

 

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Repost: How to Respond When Someone Shares Their Pain

We’ve all been there-we ask a routine question and someone refuses to play the social game.  

We say, “How are you?” and they answer honestly instead of with the obligatory, “I’m fine.  You?”

Suddenly the encounter has taken an unexpected turn.

“Oh, no!  I don’t know what to say,” you think.

Read the rest here:  How To Respond When Someone Shares Their Pain

Repost: What Does Healing Look Like?

As I continue to walk this Valley, my heart asks the question, “What does healing look like?”

Fewer tears?  Check.

More laughter? Check.

Better able to function? Check.

Read the rest here:  What Does Healing Look Like?

Prayer Requests and a Pounding Heart

It’s what we do when we get together at church-in Sunday School or Wednesday night Prayer Meeting-we take prayer requests.

It’s what we should do.

We are commanded to pray for one another.

pray for one another

I listen attentively, take notes, try to get the names spelled correctly-I’m the one who types the list for the weekly bulletin so I want to get it right.

Until...someone shares a request that sends my mind down a winding path of memory. My heart begins to beat the rapid tap-tap-tap warning of mounting anxiety.  Death has come to another family’s door or is stalking them around the corner.

Some parent will stand by the casket of the child they bore and wonder how in the world they outlived their offspring.  

And while I try to pray faithfully for all the requests shared, this one lodges in my throat and will not be ignored.

My heart is broken as theirs breaks.  I know only God can hold it together.

I breathe a prayer in:  “God grant them strength, grant them mercy, grant them grace.”

I breathe a prayer out:  “Jesus, Shepherd, carry them in Your arms.  Don’t let their faith fail.”

out of the depths i cry for you

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Can I Trust My Child Is With Jesus?

There are many burdens bereaved parents bear in addition to the heaviness of living with child loss.

Some had unfinished business,

some were estranged,

some had harsh words

or no words at all before their child left them.

And some are oh, so afraid that the child that made a sincere profession of faith in Christ might not be in heaven because he or she was living outside the will of God when they died.

I can’t offer words to undo or soothe some of the other burdens, but I can offer hope from the Word of God to assure any parent afraid for the eternal salvation of their child that he or she is safely Home.

If your child made a genuine profession of faith in Christ, then no single impulsive decision or even a series of bad choices, can undo what God has done for him or her through the blood of Jesus.

If Satan is not strong enough to snatch us from God’s hand, our feeble human choices are certainly not strong enough!

Jesus declared those whom the Father had given Him could in no way be snatched from His hand:

28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.

30 I and my Father are one.

John 10:28-30 KJV

The circumstances of a child’s death do not negate his or her profession of faith in the blood of Christ Jesus!

42 Then he [the repentent thief on the cross] said, “Jesus, remember me when you enter your kingdom.”

43 He said, “Don’t worry, I will. Today you will join me in paradise.”

Luke 22: 42-43 MSG

I realize that various denominational traditions teach different things, but I am utterly convinced that it is God Himself Who calls, Who saves, Who keeps and Who is keeping at this moment our precious children who put their trust in Jesus:

For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God;

Ephesians 2:8 AMP

I also rest satisfied that He Who began a good work in our children is faithful to complete it. If salvation depended on our good works, or our own faithfulness-ALL of us would be lost.

began a good work

We are hid in Christ. His righteousness (and HIS alone) is our righteousness.

For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.

Colossians 3:3 KJV

Our sins are flung as far as the east is from the west. They are hid behind God’s back-unviewable (have you ever tried to see something on the small of your back-without a mirror?):

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Dominic was not at the height of his Bible-toting, church-going, praise-song-singing days when he left us.  He was an adult student in law school, living in his own apartment and making his own choices.  He made some I didn’t like.  But that doesn’t change the FACT that he belonged (and STILL belongs)  to Jesus.

Your child who trusted Jesus is safe, dear parent.

He is in his really, truly Home.

One day there will be great joy when we are reunited. Until then, we rely on the promises of God in Christ to see us through.

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I pray for every parent reading that God overwhelms your hurting heart with His love, grace and mercy and assures you of His faithfulness.

And may He give you strength for each new day.

❤ Melanie